The Eight Phases of EMDR
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy to help people reprocess painful, unresolved memories such as people who have PTSD. Here are the eight phrases that make up EMDR.
Phase one is sharing your story, getting to know your therapist’s style, and setting up treatment goals. You will also be introduced to touchstone events that contribute to current symptoms. Your therapist will ask you to rate from a scale of 0-10 how disturbing those memories are to you.
Phase two is learning about grounding skills, stress reduction skills, state change skills, or creating an image that will make you feel safe. You will also learn about bilateral stimulation (BLS) which is back and forth eye movements, sounds, and tactile sensations to help the right and left hemispheres with traumatic memories. You will also be able to activate your Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) to help access positive experiences, images, and thoughts.
Phase three is when you look at what memory you want to target and will be asked for the image, negative connotation, and a positive connotation. Your therapist will ask you to rate your positive connotation on a scale of 1-7 and the disturbing target from 0-10 as well as describing the experience.
Phase four is processing the disturbance of your target by moving your eyes back and forth to hear tones and feel taps. Your therapist will also make you think about things like cognitive interweaves. You will rate from 0-10 your disturbance levels and will be able to move on if you rate a zero.
Phase five is seeing if your positive connotation has changed and how true it feels using a scale of 1-7. You can also use BLS to see if anything gets in the way. If you rate a 7, you can move on.
Phase six is mentally scanning your body to find sensations or tensions signaling something stuck regarding the target. If the sensations continue to linger, use BLS.
Phase seven is for the therapist to provide closure for you to feel better compared to the start of the session. You will use the self-soothing skills from phase two and encouraged to log experience.
Phase eight will reevaluate the disturbance levels from your target of the last session to determine if your level is neutral and if your positive cognition is true. If not, then go back to phase four.
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Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | December 6, 2017